(Michael Chamberlain/Nevada Business Coalition) – According to Nevada law, an employee cannot be forced to join a union to get a job. Ironically, in many cases union members in the State must quit their jobs in order to leave their unions.
Over the last several weeks, I’ve been receiving emails from a group that has been highlighting some of the worst aspects of the Nevada State Teachers Union to NSEA members and that has been encouraging them to withdraw from the union.
The group forwarded me many responses in which union members claimed they had attempted to quit the union, but were told they could only do so during a two-week window once a year. Outside of that window, the only way to withdraw from the union would be to quit their jobs.
This seemed outrageous to me. If Nevada is truly a state in which one cannot be forced to join a union against his will, then certainly one shouldn’t have to remain in a union against his will, I thought.
Turns out I was wrong.
I made a phone call to the Nevada State Labor Commissioner’s office to ask about this. I was told that, although state law says a person need not be a member of a union to have a job, it goes no further than that. The decision regarding the procedures through which a member of a union can withdraw his or her membership are not set in law but left completely up to the union itself, including allowing a member to do so only during short windows with lots of hoops to jump through.
I was flabbergasted. “So the union gets to make the rules regarding when and how someone can withdraw from the union?” I asked.
“Yes,” was the reply.
“So they could make could make rules that are completely arbitrary and burdensome?” I followed.
“That is correct.”
If this isn’t a situation that is ripe for abuse, I don’t know what is. Not to give anyone, least of all the NSEA, any ideas, but apparently if a union only allowed members to renounce their memberships during a one-hour window once a year and only at some remote location, that would be perfectly acceptable as far as the Labor Commissioner’s office is concerned.
This is definitely an issue that should be addressed in the next session of the Nevada Legislature. For if we truly are a state in which you can’t be forced to be a member of a union to have a job, then quitting your job shouldn’t be the only realistic way to quit your union.
(Michael Chamberlain is Executive Director of Nevada Business Coalition.)